Oakland at Work: Reconnecting with nature at the Temescal Farmers’ Market
on December 10, 2015
It’s the last day of the year for tomatoes.
This December has been cold. A steady drizzle is falling on the parking lot of the Claremont Avenue Department of Motor Vehicles, which is given over to the Temescal Farmers’ Market on Sundays. Nearly every vendor wears a wool cap for warmth. The crowds seem thinner today, the vendors say, but there’s still a line at most of the tents. The regulars always turn out.
At the Tomatero Farm stand, Jake is in a good mood. He woke up hours before sunrise to drive from Santa Cruz to Watsonville to pick up the day’s produce, and then to Oakland to set up the stand. Now it’s nearly lunchtime. The farmers usually barter items to create meals, and Jake will trade some of Tomatero’s vegetables for bread and cheese, to eat with those late-season tomatoes.
He’s been gnawing on daikon radishes through the morning. He’s happy to eat them raw, off the stand’s sample tray, but he keeps hearing customers talk about pickling them. “That’s really trendy right now,” he says. “Pickling stuff.”
Across the parking lot, True Grass Farms is selling grass-fed Wagyu beef at $18 per pound for tenderloin, $28 per pound for filet, or $4,000 for the entire cow.
“We’re trying to forge that relationship between the people who are eating the food and us who are growing the food,” says Jesse, who’s working the stand today. As he talks he gestures at the laminated banner hanging behind him, which shows grazing black cows, rolling green hills, perfect blue skies.
“You buy a share online. And then at a certain time of year you go pick up the cow, either here at the farmer’s market or up at the ranch.” (True Grass will slaughter your cow first.)
In 2013, Playboy listed True Grass’s cow share as number five on a list of “19 Things to Do Before You Die.”
“Right next to, ‘Buy a Ferrari,’” Jesse says.
Nearby, a trim, middle-aged woman in a blue rain jacket and a black brimmed hat walks up to the Massa Organics table. Massa sells organic brown rice, which comes in two-pound plastic bags with a rendering of the Massa farm across the front, and dry-roasted or raw organic almonds, which fill two tall Tupperware containers on the table. The woman points to the nuts. “Two pounds.”
Justin, who’s been working the Massa stand long enough to know his customers’ usual orders, smiles back at her as he packs the almonds in brown paper. “Two this week?”
“The group I work with, they’re like, ‘You’re going to bring those almonds for the road, right?’” she says. “We’re driving to Chico. Maybe we’ll pass your farm.”
Justin points to the picture on the bag of rice. “It looks like that.”
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